Story by Barbara & Manos Angelakis
Photos by Manos Angelakis
Turning Stone Resort and Casino
5218 Patrick Road
Verona, NY 13478
Turning Stone Resort is a Oneida Nation resort complex in upstate New York consisting of casino; accommodations at different price points; golf courses for all levels of expertise; spas in the day and ultra-luxe categories; and constantly expanding restaurants and entertainment venues to satisfy their growing clientèle... in other words something for everyone at every age and economic level. Our visit was concentrated on the resort inside the resort; the newest luxury accommodation at Turning Stone called The Lodge.
The Lodge is an example of understated luxury with all the amenities that you would expect to find at a 5-star property and then some. The building is separated from the activities of the greater resort with a walkway limited to The Lodge patrons only. It connects to the casino, shopping, restaurants, entertainment venues and the hotel tower, should you decide to participate and want to avoid traversing the exterior of the property in inclement weather.
The Lodge is beautifully landscaped according to the season with a meandering waterway providing a soothing lullaby to the changing colors and weather conditions. We drove to The Lodge and upon arriving we were greeted warmly, the car was unloaded and parked, and we were assured that should we need it at anytime during our stay it would be immediately delivered. Registration was friendly and accompanied by lemonade or tea and chocolates. Complimentary morning coffee is available in the handsome lobby facing a verdant broad lawn and garden, as well as afternoon tea. And for the forever young at heart, after dinner s’mores are toasted at the outdoors fire pit as long as guests are about.
All accommodations at The Lodge are handsomely furnished suites with living room, bedroom and large bathroom with both tub and shower plus a porch or verandah with a view overlooking the perfectly maintained lawns, gardens, and golf courses beyond. Our room was constantly refreshed according to our preferred schedule for housekeeping services both in the a.m. and for turn-down in the p.m. with nice touches like laying out the terrycloth robes and slippers provided for our stay and hand-made dream catchers on the pillow at night instead of the ubiquitous chocolate candy. Daily shoe polishing is another nice touch offered, similar to the standard at European five-star hotels and resorts, as is hanging the newspaper of our choice outside our door in the morning. Of course linens are of the finest quality and a personal choice of type and number of pillows is a phone call away.
My focus for this visit was the Skaná Spa based on the Oneida Indian traditions and practices (see Skaná Spa) while Manos was concentrated on the quality of dining offered at both the Hotel tower and The Lodge.
The restaurants, bars and other food and beverage options as well the casino games offered are commensurate with any top Hotel and Casino in the five-state area.
There is TS Steakhouse, where we had an excellent dinner; it is open after 5pm Wednesday to Sunday. Pino Bianco and Pino Pronto, Italian restaurants offering casual Italian family dining with nice pizzas for lunch, antipasti and hearty soups, plus salads, fish and meat entrées for dinner.
There is an Asian restaurant called Peach Blossom which was unfortunately closed the days we were visiting; it operates Thursday to Monday. The Tin Rooster, a BBQ roadhouse-styled eatery and music hall that is only open Thursday to Sunday.
An extraordinary gourmet restaurant called Wildflowers is located inside The Lodge, where we also had an brilliant meal. The Upstate Tavern, offers sandwiches, soups and salads, a wing-bar with a choice of sauces and a vast variety of artisanal beers from local micro-brewers, in addition to national brands.
There is also Opals Confectionery, a pastry shop that makes – amongst other sweet offerings – exceptional cupcakes.
And numerous bars such as the Atrium Bar with a sushi menu; the Leopard Lounge on the casino floor; the British-themed Gig and other entertainment plus food venues.
The triple-A 4 Diamond TS Steakhouse is located on the 21st floor of the Hotel tower. Originally a private club, it has a dedicated elevator that whisks you directly to the multi-level elegant restaurant on top, offering stunning views along with prime cuts of meat and fresh local seasonal produce.
We were presented with a glass of Lunetta Prosecco to start the evening. Lunetta is a light non-vintage Prosecco produced by Cavit in the Veneto.
As soon as we were seated, a tray of crusty Italian mini-breads and small cornbread loafs was brought to the table, accompanied by an unusual maple syrup butter as well as plain sweet butter. We started dinner with a cup of classic French onion soup, topped with gruyere melted in a salamander so that it was crusty and smoky; and also a cup of roasted corn and clam chowder that was thick and tasty. An interesting touch was the spicy, home made roast-tomato ketchup.
Barbara ordered Foie Gras as her first plate to be followed by a NY Strip. My order was salt and pepper calamari to be followed by a 12 oz. filet, prepared as I like it, black and blue. The meat is all charbroiled prime Angus beef.
Both appetizers were extraordinary, especially the silky foie gras. The steaks were perfectly seasoned with a 5 C’s blend (Cinnamon, Cloves, Cumin, ground Coriander seed, and Cayenne pepper) then grilled, nicely redolent of wood smoke, and delivered with entire heads of roasted garlic that was soft and buttery and easily spreadable on the Italian bread. Four sauces were brought to the table with the steaks, a classic Béarnaise, Horseradish, a Cabernet Reduction and a House Sauce. For a dedicated carnivore, these were the perfect steakhouse main courses.
A dessert cart was rolled by, featuring a vast variety of pastries, chocolate petty fours, sugar-crusted fruit gels, and other sweet delights. We loved the lollipops!
Interesting is the penthouse bar that offers its own bar food menu in addition to top shelf spirits. And in true steakhouse tradition, there is a cigar bar in an intimate, separate, smoking parlor; even though the rest of the resort is non-smoking.
TS’s wine list is well chosen featuring numerous American red wine options, plus Italian Chianti Classicos, Brunellos and exceptional Amarones, plus French and Spanish bottles that should satisfy any oenophile foodie. There is serious pairing of prime meat with the proper wines.
Herb, the waiter that took care of us was knowledgeable of all kitchen details; he recommended an exceptional California red with my filet and made sure that he could anticipate any need without being obtrusive.
Another triple-A 4 Diamond restaurant, Wildflowers, is located in The Lodge and also serves as breakfast room providing a level of privacy for the celebrities that come for the championship golf and/or tennis events. We saw a number of well known actors and politicians, but we refuse to divulge their identity.
When we were seated, the day’s menu was already on our setting in a roll, tied with a ribbon.
An amuse bouche of potato gnocchi and a tomato jam was brought to start the evening. Alex and Michael were our waiters; they brought us ginger infused hot towels and discussed with us food prep of the dishes we could order and possible wine pairings with each dish.
They were both charming and totally conversant with the capabilities of the kitchen.
The menu was divided into Starters, Soups and Salads, and Entrees. A separate Dinner Dessert menu was presented that had 6 dessert offerings plus suggestions for Specialty Drinks and After Dinner Liqueurs and Ports.
I started with the Foie Gras Torchon with pear puree, poached-pear cubes, almond crumble and brioche crumbs with dots of 18-year old sherry balsamic elixir. An exquisite dish, perfectly prepared and presented.
Barbara had the Wildflower Salad; served on a black slate slab with beet foam, crunchy beet glass, and beet caviar over red beet purée, with plum sorrel and wedges of goat cheese sprinkled with beet ash. An eye-pleasing elaborate totally unique signature salad that tasted… oh so good, if you happen to like beets and goat cheese like we do!
A palate cleanser of pineapple and tarragon sorbet prepared us for the main courses. And our entrees were:
Lamb Loin with white apple purée, apple crisps, potato confit and braised mustard pan sauce, and seared Duck Breast, with foie gras, caramelized pearl onions, sunchokes, lingonberry, braised cabbage and chard jus.
Both were exceptional dishes.
Finally came dessert and, though I thought we could not eat another bite, we ordered the Chocolate Ganache with two forks! It’s all a question of checking out the kitchen’s expertise… therefore passing on the handiwork of the pâtissier would be unacceptable. The Ganache came with flexible chocolate, black currant gelato, chocolate glass, black currant foam and currant gel. We washed it down with a glass of 2003 Fonseca port, a worthy pairing. A final espresso topped the dinner.
It was certainly a very fine evening!
© November 2014 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.